Archive for the ‘*Hamamama’ Category

Top 5 Food Moments of 2007

December 24, 2007

Manolha Dargis says (in her own top 10 list of films of the year), “Top 10 lists are artificial exercizes, assertions of critical ego, capricious and necssarily imperfect.” Well, how about a Top 5? Can that be any more meaningful?

Sure, why not– I think that Top lists are a fun way to exercize your brain, reaching back into the crevices of your memory to sift through the last 365 days. It’s pretty incredible actually– in terms of food, the possiblilities are endless. I asked UM contributors to send over their Top 5 Food Moments of 2007, where anything goes– meals, restaurants, kitchen accessories, ingredients, books, films– essentially, whatever they wanted to include (whether they had blogged it or not). I assure you that this is no easy task, but here they are.

1. Alan Wong’s 7 course tasting menu with wine pairing (is there even any doubt that this was the meal of the year???)
2. Chez Panisse kitchen tour
3. Draeger’s Cooking School!
4. United States of Arugula (so what if it was published in 2006)
5. Bodum Assam glasses (A housewarming gift from Kayoko, great for everything from coffee to ice cream)
The Top 5
5. Hudson Valley tomatoes.
4. Macallan 25.
3. Leeks.
2. The lunchtime burger at Prune.
1. Everything at Laduree.

The Bottom 5
5. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.
4. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.
3. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.
2. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.
1. That asshole waitress at Sushi Yasuda who browbeat my mother.

1. The Next Food Network Star (Season 3) – the surprising last-minute resignation of JAG, and the upset victory of Amy over Rory. this was truly must-see tv.

2. The rise of the “localvore” / eating locally.
3. Stacy’s pesto and sun-dried tomato pita chips – not sure when they came out, but in 2007 I began eating an entire bag everyday.
4. My dinner at Brown cafe, which included the best wine I’ve had all year: 2004 Castello della Paneretta Chianti Classico.
5. Jonathan Gold’s Pulitzer Prize – the first time the prize has been given to a restaurant critic

1. Spicy Mina
2. Sushi of Gari Omakase w/ dad
3. Wu Liang Ye’s Double Cooked Fresh Bacon ** With Spicy Capsicum
4. Go Go Curry w/ Mel & Kakabori
5. Spicy & Tasty Dan Dan Noodles & Sauteed Pork

1. Green tea chocolates from Tafu
2. Republic of Tea Wild Blueberry Black Tea
3. Konbini on 47th
4. Watermelon flavored hi-chew
5. Mochi Maker!!!!

OK the thing about me is that I am not just interested in the moment of consumption, but the process of getting there, and the event of the eating. I went to a lot of fancy restaurants, oyster bars and the like this year, but in the end, they don’t make a lasting impression on the heart stomach. So I would say my top five most memorable food experiences of 2007 were:

5. What about those awesome lunches at work, the series of home-cooked lunches made by JS co-workers, from Yamahomo’s beef tongue stew, to Futoshi’s curry, and my own Yum Woon Sen! Loved the sharing atmosphere and cut down on lunch costs too!

4. Oh wow definitely the Umamiventure to the Red Hook Ball Fields. That was hella fun NY summer activity! So much to experience, so many different foods, so many fun people, the great weather, the soccer, awesome times.

3. BEST RESTAURANT of the year for me was Aurora in Williamsburg. I went there this year for the first time, after hearing about it from others and it was amazing. Beautiful space, especially if you get the garden during the warmer months, nice rich wood interior and reasonable prices for delicious foods: octopus, hand-made pastas. A very close second would be Cafe Falai on Bowery. Loved the menus in the envelopes. yum yum yum.

2. Tmonkey and I did a colon cleanse together in the autumn, as our romantic activity. We kept track of our bowel movements and physical changes down to the finest details and shared these with each other. It was a fascinating process of fasting that stripped down the cycle of appetite -> consumption –> digestion, and realized that so much of what we experience as hunger is psychological. After 5 days of fasting my skin was clear and beautiful and I felt terrific – AND amazing things had come out of my body. O Boy. I also learned that what is as important as the fasting is how your BREAK the fast. I f*cked this up royally, but will make sure to pay more attention to this when I do the 10-day fast in the spring.

1. Helping to create and eating the ultra-thin million layered lasagna made by my dearest Tmonkey — just divine!!! Kayo was there too!

5. Mozza, Batali’s new eatery in LA. Went out to LA on business, had a friend whose boyfriend was the bartender there, and thus got the royal treatment. Incredible grilled octopus. Amazing amaro tasting flights at the end, free because amaro is apparently not legal in the states.

4. There’s nothing scientific about my selection methodology for this btw — I’m just picking food moments that actually lodged themselves in my brain. One of these moments was when I was in Guadalajara last month, my friends there took me to an open market (well it was covered with a roof, like Essex Market) and sat down at this stand where this young guy was cooking up a storm and I asked him what I should order, what their specialty was, and he hooked me up with this dish called “chafaldrana”, which was basically this seafood quick stew (tomato based) with tilapia (I think), octopus, scallops, and shrimp served with rice, onions, slices of tomatoes, tortillas, and these cute little mini-avocados. It was made “a la minute” right in front of me. I got it on tape — will upload pics and vid soon. Amazingly fresh and delightful.

3. Thousand Layer Lasagne: I was inspired by the recipe on to make this lasagne which requires you to roll out fresh egg pasta dough into incredibly thin layer. I usually don’t make recipes like this (which warn you that a super-herculean effort is required) sight unseen, but Aya made me do it. Actually it turned out to be pretty fantastic, but I’m wondering how much of it was because of the incredible amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into the making of it. I think you can taste those things.

2. Another Mexico moment: I was in Jalisco, the state where Tequila comes from. It was a few hours from the Pacific coast, and my friends took me to a lake called Santa Maria de Oro, which was surrounded by mountains on all sides. There was a lone restaurant at the base of the lake, and pretty much the only thing they served was chicharrón de pescado, which is basically fried fish, which I presumed to be from the lake itself. It came with a pink-ish colored mayonnaise, cucumbers and tomatoes, and tortillas, which made me realize of course, that these were actually fish tacos!!! Amazing ones, at that. Again, I’m sure the ambience had something to do with my memory of this — perfect 80 degree weather, eating them after I had kayaked out to the middle of the lake and swum in the perfectly warm, clean water. Yeah…

1. When Aya and I were doing our week-long colon cleanse, I experienced delusional hunger pangs, fantasizing about various random foods (the most hilarious was when we were in the subway standing next to a dumb Arnold’s bread ad with a ham sandwich and Aya looked at me and intoned with a zombie-voice, “Ham sandwich….”), but near the end I couldn’t get my mind off Franny’s wood-fired oven pizza. So the first real meal we had after coming off of the cleanse was there, and chalk it up to delayed gratification and wish fulfillment, but damn if we didn’t have a bacchanalia that night (grilled octopus, sausage pizza, orichiette, and for dessert…ANOTHER pizza — our waitron did a double take when we ordered that one). I count that as a double dinner, and any double dinner should be memorialized in my book.

1. Dinner at the Core Club prepared by Dan Kluger and pastry chef Rob Fitzhenry

2. Dinner on the house at Maremma, courtesy of the amazing and wonderful Cesare Casella.
3. Olive oil bon-bons at the James Beard Awards

4. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner in Santa Barbara in Aunt Janet’s ocean front kitchen.
5. My 1st shoot for the NY Times Dining section, The Kingswood restaurant, NYC.

Runners Up:
– Wylie Dufresne’s presentation at the Star Chef’s Congress, NYC.
– Blueberry picking in Vermont
– Jack’s Saturday morning brunch while listening to “This American Life” (below)

1. Sripraphai Umamiventure, all the way. Those drunken noodles were just out of this world, and I still dream of the fried watercress salad. Tmonkey and Ayagwa’s inspiring video immortalized the meal perfectly. It was one of those amazing meals where every single one of our 10 or so dishes were delicious, and, despite the fact that many people were meeting for the first time, we all left feeling as we were eternally connected through this one meal. Now THAT is the power of a good meal.

2. My meal at Taverna dei Consoli trattoria in Assisi, Italy. I was alone in the city for a night, and the hotel man recommended the place in the piazza. I never did figure out if this joint was what he was talking about, but it’s where I ended up and had the best dinner of my trip. They were about to close up shop but they indulged my hunger anyway. Fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms and a pork chop in a balsamic and prune reduction. Ooh la la. I went back for lunch the next day and had the same! This year, I learned to appreciate eating out alone, which is something I never did before. There’s something really meditative about it.
3. Lunch with Jose, Marta and her family at her apartment in Madrid. Nothing like Spanish homecooking— albondigas and boquerones filled with love.
4. Introduction to Shanghai Cafe by Tmonkey. It was love at first bite. Cravings for these incredible soup dumplings haunt me at all hours of the day– their steam, their scent, the marriage between crab and pork dipped in a vinigary concoction (the key: the crab does not dry out the way they do at Joe’s Shanghai, or any other “venerable” soup dumpling establishment). My dream meal is an order of the dumplings, and their lo mein, which are really thick udon-like noodles. It is by far the restaurant I frequented the most this year.

5. My chicken bag!

Runners up:
– The secret sea side shack Ayagwa introduced me to at Rockaway Beach
– Fresh northwest oysters and the cute bartender at the Seattle Airport
– The sardines from Don Quixote Restaurant at the Atlantic Antic street fair
– Leslie and Alex’s 4 hour wedding meal at Osteria Le Logge in Siena
Vintage Pyrex mixing bowls I bought from Yamahomo
– The “best cappucino in Italy” cafe in Roma

Aside from my top 5 (er, 11), the launch of this blog was perhaps the most meaningful food moment for me this year. I look forward to a plethora memorable food moments in 2008– too much for me to blog I am sure! Thanks to everyone for reading, contributing and commenting in UM’s fantastic first year.
Happy, happy holidays to you and your family, and always, happy eating!

Spicy Mina (NYC)

September 8, 2007

It was time for another Mets game with my friend Bill, so we knew to start the night off with a pre-game, ethnic meal in Queens last night. This time we chose to try Spicy Mina, a Bangledeshi restaurant.

WOW! It was really an experience- so flavorful with unique spices – somewhat similar to Indian food, but definitely had it’s own trademark on flavor.

For starters, we ordered the Samosa Chat (vegetable fritters served with hot tangy sauce, prepared with yogurt chat masala). For entrees we went with the Chicken Jhaal Fry (chicken cooked with onion and hot traditional spice) and the Lamb Vindiallo (lamb cooked in a hot and tangy curry sauce). We had the waiter choose a vegetable dish for us – I think this is what it was: Chana Masala with Puri (Chick peas prepared with Bangladeshi spices served with puri) – whatever the correct name, it was like a chick pea risotto. But wait, there’s more — we also ordered the Onion Kulcha, which is nan stuffed with seasoned green onion. What a meal, I wish my words did it justice. The dishes did not come out five minutes after ordering, you could tell they were cooked to order. We finished it off with their specialty dessert – rice pudding. We split an order, which came out to be about 3-4 spoonfuls each, which was just enough sweetness to top of the incredible meal.

I was so engrossed in our special meal, that I forgot to take photos (I’m sorry!), but I did remember to take a photo of this one piece of “artwork” that was hanging behind me.

Spicy Mina is so easy to get to from Manhattan — the R or the V will take you right to the corner where the restaurant is located (65th Street stop). I got there in 20 minutes by taking the R from 59th and Lexington.

Sidenote: there were these colorful green chili peppers in the chicken dish. Bill insisted that it was a “clean hot”, so I took a small bite and thought I could handle it. I nodded, told him he was right, but then a few seconds later I broke out into a sweat and almost thought I was going to cry. Maybe there was smoke coming out of my ears, like in the cartoons. It took a good five minutes to recover. So eat at your own risk!!

Spicy Mina
6423 Broadway
Flushing, NY 11377
(718) 205-2340

Cheap Eats

July 23, 2007

I was just checking out New York Magazine’s 2007 Cheap List — two places that have already been written about on Umami Mart are included on their list: Little Pepper and Boi to Go! Hopefully we can check out the whole list and blog about all of them!

Bon Appetit!

In-N-Out Burger Coming to NYC???

July 18, 2007

Via, I came across a post on this blog that says Departures magazine has a mention that In-N-Out may be coming to NYC!

If you are a Southern California native like myself — or have done their drive thru — you understand how exciting this. I’ve always said this joint would do so well in NYC – the lines would be outrageous, but I’d be waiting in line to get my cheeseburger with all the fixins’!!

Soba Baby

July 9, 2007
This is the meal that made it happen. Mel & I dined at Sakagura with Aya on (6/29) – our last meal with Aya before her childless days were kissed goodbye. She was still supposed to have a little more than a week before her baby was born, but there must’ve been something in her Tenzaru soba, because little Kota was born about 48 hours afterwards!! We all enjoyed the homemade soba at Sakagura – it’s always a meal that doesn’t disappoint.

Their desserts are also unique and delicious….we devoured them so fast we forgot to take photos. Here’s what’s left of my green tea ice cream.

Congratulations, Aya — I hope they have high chairs at Sakagura so we can go again with your new addition!

211 E 43rd St Btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave
(it’s in the basement of an office building – a little hard to find)

Little Pepper

June 8, 2007

Back to Shea Stadium for some Mets action last night, so you know what that means…back to the last stop on the 7 train for some szechuan. This time my friend Bill and I tried Little Pepper, a place we hear gives Spicy and Tasty a run for its money.

For starters, we had pork dumplings with spicy sauce. Definitely not the kind you get at the Gourmet Wok take-out place in the city where it’s all dough, no filling. These were very thin layered dumplings with an oh-so pungent kick of chili. (almost forgot to snap a photo before we starting digging in!)

Then it was the Dan Dan Noodles — I must say, these beat out Spicy and Tasty’s, in my humble opinion. A generous portion of warm noodles with amazing flavors.

For the main course we had the lamb with spices and enhanced pork. To our surprise, the lamb was very middle-easternesque because of the spices – especially cumin. It was delicious, but if you were blind-folded, you wouldn’t think you were eating this in a Chinese restaurant.

When I first heard the words “enhanced pork” it either made me giggle or gag. What in the world? I just googled and found:

“Enhanced meat can be defined as fresh, whole muscle meat that has been injected with a solution of water and other ingredients that may include salt, phosphates, antioxidants, and flavorings. There’s really nothing sinister about enhanced meat. The self-basted Butterball turkey that you cook at Thanksgiving is an enhanced meat. When you brine chicken overnight in your refrigerator, you’re making a form of enhanced meat.”

Okay, that makes me feel better. It actually tasted very similar to twice cook pork to me – not so much spicy as it was salty. I still can’t put a finger on it, but something was so spicy (in a good way) that I came this close to shedding a tear!!

If I had a gun to my head (by who? the szechuan hostages?!), I think I’d have to pick Spicy and Tasty (you just can’t beat the sauteed pork), but if I were forced to go back to Little Pepper, it’s not like i would be kicking and screaming all the way there…probably skipping and smiling.

Little Pepper
133-43 Roosevelt Avenue
(it’s on the lower level of the bldg)

7 Train to Main Street (end of line)

Oh so Spicy, Oh so Tasty

June 1, 2007

I was introduced to this unbelievable szechuan restaurant called Spicy and Tasty in Queens by my friend Bill. We are avid Mets fans, so we try to get there as often as we can when we’re headed to a ballgame.

I took my friends Kevin & Bea there last night before we went to see watch some baseball. I am proud to say I think they are hooked as well! I was very lucky to dine with them last night as they are total foodies like me – and Bea speaks chinese, so she served as a valuable interpreter for us! Unfortunately I just look the part.

The only thing I requested (okay, demanded!) was that we order the shredded pork in fresh hot pepper. TO DIE FOR! The word succulent comes first to mind. Trust me, you have this dish once, and you will be craving it again for days (and no NYC restaurant has anything like it – trust me, I’ve been searching).

For an appetizer, Bea ordered us the shredded dry bean curd with celery. Very good – and a perfect summer dish as it had a refreshing taste to it (and the only non-spicy thing on our table)! If she wasn’t with me, I would’ve never have thought to have ordered this dish. Lucky for you guys, I remembered to snap a photo with only about three bites left! Phew!

In addition to the pork, we had two other main dishes – the bean curd with minced pork (silky!) and the noodles with minced meat (delectable!). Both were just as pleasing to the tastebuds.

I highly recommend this place to meat eaters and those who definitely LOVE things with a KICK. Bland eating vegetarians need not apply. Don’t be embarrassed if you get a runny nose or break out into a sweat. It’s called Spicy and Tasty for a reason!

The “S&T” is located at 39-07 Prince Street at 39th Street… so easy to get to on the 7 Train. Enjoy!!

Do Hwa

May 17, 2007

Wow, this is my first time blogging! How exciting.

Anyway, MRoach introduced Aya A. and two JS alums, yours truly and Gayle, to Do Hwa — a great Korean joint in the Village (55 Carmine Street b/t Bedford & 7th Ave S). We did not leave hungry…that is for sure! I specifically took the photos with my cell for Umami Mart!

Above are photos of our Deji Bulgogi (thin slices of pork in a spicy chili pepper marinade)…..soooo good!! It helped that Mel was the best BBQer, making sure the meat was getting cooked equally on both sides! 🙂 You wrap it in the lettuce & shiso leaves (last photo).

To start we had kimchi pancakes and a fried oyster appetizer. We also had two kinds of soups – Mandu D’uk Gook (homemade dumpling soup with rice cakes…which was more like mochi — YUM) and another one, which I think was Dwen Jang Chigae (dark miso soup with vegetables and beef).

The place is very cool – definitely a fun place to go in a group if you do the BBQ….but note: you cannot split the BBQ’s for two for an individual BBQ…must be for two…no ifs ands or buts.